Garrett Atkins is a man without a job, yet he is still gainfully employed.
It may sound like the ultimate contradiction, but it’s merely a sign of the times in Major League Baseball.
Many teams are currently at a tipping point with overpriced, underperforming veterans.
It is becoming more common for big league clubs to non-tender players who have become too pricey, rather than risk overpaying them in arbitration.
Garrett Atkins and the Colorado Rockies are the latest example of this situation.
Atkins, 29, is still with the Colorado Rockies, but only as a formality.
On Friday, the Rockies announced that Atkins would remain with on the club’s 40-man roster.
This move serves only to delay the inevitable, as Garrett Atkins has undoubtedly played his last game for Colorado.
Thanks to arbitration, the Rockies paid Atkins more than $7 million last season.
That was $3 million more than he’d made in 2008, despite posting a second-consecutive year of declining numbers.
Many in the Colorado front-office were hoping for a bounce-back performance in 2009, unfortunately, they didn’t get one.
For their $7 million investment, Atkins gave the club a dismal .226/.308/.342 line with nine home runs and 48 RBIs. By mid-season, he’d become a backup infielder after losing his job to rising star, Ian Stewart.
As such, Colorado is only keeping Atkins on the 40-man roster to allow more time for general manager Dan O’Dowd to try and facilitate a trade before the December 12 non-tender date.
O’Dowd has been actively trying to move the slumping slugger since last offseason.
A year ago, most clubs were wary about pulling the trigger, as Atkins’ numbers suggested that his success had been more a product of Coors Field than his actual talent.
This offseason, the interest has been even more tepid given Atkins’ continued downward spiral at the plate.
His numbers have been in steady decline since his breakout campaign in 2006, when he posted an astounding.329/.409/.556 line with 29 home runs, 120 RBIs, 117 runs scored and 48 doubles.
His below-average defense at third could be put up with when he was posting mammoth power numbers, but a no-hit, no-field third baseman simply won’t do. At this point he projects as a first baseman rather than a third sacker.
A small handful of teams have reportedly shown some interest, including the Baltimore Orioles and Texas Rangers.
Both clubs could use him at either corner or in a designated hitter role and Atkins could benefit from playing in another renowned hitters park.
Neither club, however, wants to give the Rockies anything in return, nor should they.
O’Dowd has three weeks until the non-tender deadline. In that time he will make a strong push to move Atkins, for anything he can get in return.
If he is unable to do so, he will undoubtedly have to cut Atkins loose and be left with nothing to show for the former fifth-round draft pick.
In these economic times, this situation is becoming more and more common.
Clubs like the Rockies can’t afford to throw $7 million at underperforming players and other clubs refuse to trade their young, cheap talent for reclamation projects.
And why should then when, in three weeks time, Atkins figures to be available on a minor-league deal.
If Atkins had posted better numbers, it would make far more sense for a club to make a trade, rather than risk another club beating them to the punch.
Atkins’ wretched season has torpedoed his value, both to himself and to Colorado.
In three weeks, he’ll be a free agent just hoping to catch on with a club for the Major League minimum.
The Rockies will be off-the-hook for more than $7 million, but they’ll have nothing to show for all of the time and effort they spent developing Atkins.
It’s a lose-lose situation, but it’s also business as usual in the new baseball economy.